Five years after the VET law came into effect in 2014, and three years after the VET system came under the state management of the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) in 2016, new challenges and opportunities are calling on VET practitioners and law policy makers to analyse the status quo and figure out new directions for VET to live up to the country’s expectations of a highly skilled workforce.
The Viet Nam Education Conference 2019, organised by the National Assembly and MoLISA with support from GIZ, opened on September 20th against such a backdrop and attracted the participation of over 200 representatives from different educational institutions and various sectors of the economy.
Chairing the conference, Mr Phan Thanh Binh, Chairman of the Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children of the National Assembly highlighted the three outstanding issues in VET: state management and the legal framework regulating VET, industry linkages and VET quality. “Unless these three issues are dealt with satisfactorily, the social perception of VET as a viable career choice is unlikely to happen”.
Representatives from VET institutes spoke with one voice to raise their concerns over two main issues: the disconnect between VET and the rest of the national educational system, and inconsistencies within the legal framework hindering the process of VET autonomy. Limited sharing of information between general education, VET and universities is holding back the streaming of students into VET and creating great difficulties for VET enrolment. With regards to autonomy, conflicting policies are preventing VET schools from fully enjoying their rights. “For every piece of legislation or regulation that allows VET schools greater freedoms, there is another one that takes such freedoms away” stated Dr Le Quang Minh, Co-Director of the Viet Nam Skills for Employability Project (VSEP) and the Training Centre for Advanced Management of the HCMC National University.
Industry linkages featured as a second prominent issue of discussion. VCCI representative shared the result of a recent survey of 79 enterprises, whereby only 12.3% had regular cooperation activities with VET schools. Once again, participants pointed out the need for sound policies to create proper conditions and incentives for enterprises to engage in VET. From the Programme “Reform of TVET in Viet Nam”, Dr Juergen Hartwig suggested that for the cooperative training model to function and thrive, amendments to the Labour Law should be made to accommodate in-company training – a critical factor to improve the practice orientation of VET.
The overarching question was how to improve VET quality. Dr Truong Anh Dung, Vice-Director of DVET referred to Viet Nam’s ranking of 115/140 for quality of vocational training by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2018 as a cause for concern. Dr Dung’s worry was echoed by participants from both VET institutes – who feel that VET teachers are lagging behind industry developments, and from the private sector – who finds the skills and knowledge of VET graduates less than adequate.
Despite the enormous challenges raised by the participants, the VEC ended on an upbeat note for the Vietnamese VET system. As highlighted by Mr Phan Thanh Binh, VEC 2019 marked the beginning of a community of practice, where VET practitioners and law makers came together to generate inputs and discussions that will be taken into account at the highest level of the country’s political structure. This is an important step in the right direction for better VET quality for all.